Susan Dynarski celebrates long-awaited transparency around student debt data

September 14, 2015

Susan Dynarski, who has long argued for transparency of data surrounding student loans, student debt, and student outcomes, celebrates a big new win in her New York Times Upshot column, "New Data Gives Clearer Picture of Student Debt."

Until now, writes Dynarski, those interested in student loan reform had access only to data representing larger trends, while little was known about the college choices, loan amounts, and employment outcomes of individual borrowers. “The answers [to our questions around student debt] have been unclear," writes Dynarski, "leaving analysts and policy makers to prescribe remedies without an accurate diagnosis of the disease.”

According to Dynarski's most recent New York Times article, two researchers — Adam Looney of the Treasury Department and Constantine Yannelis of Stanford University — have released a new analysis that "matches records on federal student borrowing with the borrowers’ earnings from tax records (with identifying details removed, to preserve privacy). The data contains information about who borrows and how much; what college borrowers attended; their repayment and default; and their earnings both before and after college." 

“The data suggests that many popular perceptions of student debt are incorrect," writes Dynarski. Defaults are less common for big borrowers at big-name institutions, and are more common for those who take out "$8,000 loans at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges.”

“The sudden increase in such borrowers sharply increased the riskiness of the student loan portfolio,” says Dynarski. “Any proposed solution that does not focus on borrowers at for-profit colleges and community colleges will not address the core of the problem.” 

Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and a professor of education at the University of Michigan's School of Education. She is co-founder and co-director of the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative, which engages in applied, policy-relevant research designed to improve educational achievement and outcomes. 

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